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History of Jewellery

The word jewellery is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicised from the Old French "jouel" circa the 13th century. Further tracing leads back to the Latin word "jocale", meaning plaything. Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of body adornment; recently found 100,000 year-old beads made from Nassarius shells are thought to be the oldest known jewellery.

Jewellery as a sign of wealth

Throughout human history irrespective of religion race or culture jewellery has been an expression of wealth and social status. While the materials and techniques used to manufacture jewellery have in many ways evolved there are also a number of similarities with the very first forms of jewellery worn some 90,000 years ago.

During this time bead necklaces, crude bracelets, charms and tokens were constructed from shells were strung together with twine. Necklaces constructed from the same components are still available today. While new trends such as dangle earrings and eternity rings dominate today's jewellery fashions. 

Introduction of gold jewellery and jewellery as currency

Bracelets first worn in 4700BC during the reign of King Zer were constructed from gold and manufactured in a style widely available today. The function of jewellery has evolved and varied over time from a form of currency to a fashion accessory.

Cultures have used jewellery as a form of currency and continue to do so today. For as long as precious metal and gemstones have been used to create jewellery it has existed as a sign of wealth. Many forms of jewellery have their roots in function, pins, buckles and brooches and necklaces were created to serve a particular function but later evolved into more decorative pieces.

Jewellery in Egyptian times

The period of Egyptian jewellery was the dawning period for our modern form of jewellery. It was during this time that the manufacturing of jewellery became a profession and techniques and skills evolved to create a wide variety of styles and adornments such as ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, tiaras, and pearl necklaces. Jewellery craftsman began to us an increasingly wide variety of materials to produce ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, tiaras, and pearl necklaces.

While artistic skill was valued the primary purpose of jewellery was to act as amulets and talismans. Ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, tiaras, and pearl necklaces were made from Gemstones and metals whose colour was of greater importance than any other attribute. Gold was used extensively but this is primarily because it was readily available and very easy to work with. Many expensive gemstones we consider precious today like diamonds, which today we make into ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, tiaras, etc were very rarely used simply because they did not exhibit the colour or symbolism of other gemstones.

Egyptian beliefs stipulated that every gemstone carried certain mystical powers which would be transferred to the owner when worn as jewellery. Symbols such as the sacred Egyptian scarab also formed an important part of jewellery in the form of ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, and were also believed to carry certain powers.

Greek and Roman Jewellery

Early Greek and Roman jewellery relied heavily upon trade with neighbouring cultures and is therefore quite varied in style and construction but still in the form of ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches. Cultural symbolism once again played an important part of jewellery during this period. Greek and Roman jewellery was often created to symbolize legends and gods and later popular cultural beliefs. During this time metal working techniques evolved and jewellery pieces became more intricate and delicate producing a  more delicate type of ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches. These techniques resulted in the increased popularity of ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches and other pieces which required more delicate construction methods. Unlike other dominant cultures the Greek and Roman cultures did not ascribe to the belief that gemstones possessed certain mystical powers. For this reason stones metals are used as the predominant construction materials.

Jewellery in the Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages a majority of the world adopted Christianity cultural styles began to converge. Jewellery during this time was used primarily as a form of symbolizing Christian faith producing less ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches. During the early part of the middle ages Christian monasteries were responsible for producing the better part of the worlds jewellery. Early monasteries were required to learn trades in order to support themselves financially with many turning the jewellery craftsmanship. During this time the first independent jewellery guilds were created to both support jewellery craftsman and the industry by implementing practices such as quality inspections. The growing demands for jewellery and a booming population resulted in increasingly sophisticated forgeries which the guild recognized a threat to their boom trade.

Jewellery in the Renaissance

Jewellery during the Renaissance period was Commonly referred to as the “Jewel Age” jewellery, this began during the Renaissance to adopt a newfound purpose for Ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, tiaras, and pearl necklaces. Prior to this time jewellery served primarily as form of symbolism and wealth, forming an integral part of expressing religious and cultural beliefs. During Renaissance period the roles of jewellery began to diverge and more. Increasingly jewellery served the role of body adornment, created solely for the purpose of improving personal presentation and beauty which help produce me Ear rings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets, bangles, brooches, tiaras, and pearl necklaces in style we would recognise today. While jewellery was already seen as sign of wealth many now began to collect it solely for the purpose of protecting ones wealth.

As a form of currency it was easily protected, easy to sell and universally valuable due to the precious metals such as gold, silver and precious stones such as diamonds, pearls, ruby’s, sapphires and emeralds. Due to the focus on the role of jewellery in enhancing beauty gemstones were prized for attributes such as colour, shine over the previously held beliefs of mystical powers. For the first time in history the use of Diamond was popularized and a number of cutting methods and shapes were developed. Discoveries of new countries resulted in massive influx of previously scarce metals and gemstones. The majority of extravagant pieces we recognize today were commission by French and English royalty during this period.

Jewellery today

Today jewellery is increasingly viewed as a form of artistic expression as the tools and materials of production become increasingly affordable and available. Dramatic improvements in technology mean that jewellery constructed from affordable and readily available resources as well as synthetic materials are capable of rivalling the beauty of the most expensive natural gemstones and metals. These factors have contributed to a focus on design, creativity and artistic expression over symbolism and social status. As social barriers are removed and cultural influences are shared the variety of styles available increases. The predominant style of spring may vary completely from the predominant style of autumn. In addition to the increasing rate of change jewellery is now accepted more as a form of personal expression and so a wider and wider variety of styles continue to grow.

Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings and many more types of jewellery. While high-quality jewellery is made with gemstones and precious metals, such as silver or gold, there is also a growing demand for art jewellery where design and creativity is prized above material value. In addition, there is the less costly costume jewellery, made from lower value materials and mass-produced. Other variations include wire sculpture (wrap) jewellery, using anything from base metal wire with rock tumbled stone to precious metals and precious gemstones.